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While most people marry with the intent to stay together for the rest of their lives, circumstances and relationships often change over time, and couples that were once committed find that they no longer want to be together. For a variety of reasons, people who no longer want to live together as husband and wife do not wish to seek a divorce either. In such cases, they may want to consider seeking a legal separation. There are many benefits to legally separating, but it is not an appropriate choice for everyone. As such, it is smart for people contemplating legal separation to talk to an attorney to determine whether it aligns with their goals. At Doppelt and Forney APLC, our seasoned San Diego family law attorneys are adept at helping people protect their interests while changing the shape of their families, and if you engage our services, we will work tirelessly to help you pursue a good outcome. We frequently help parties with family law issues in San Diego and in other cities throughout the County.The Legal Separation Process Under California Law
California is one of the few states that grants married couples the ability to legally separate. A legal separation will not terminate a domestic partnership or marriage, but it provides greater benefits and protections than simply living apart from one’s spouse. For example, people filing for legal separation can ask the Courts to decide any disputed issue, such as whether either party should receive child or spousal support and, if so, in what amount. Parties to a legal separation can also ask the courts to determine their child custody and visitation rights. Finally, they can ask the Courts to determine how any community property should be divided, which party bears the responsibility of paying any community debts, and any other financial rights and obligations. Orders issued in legal separation matters are binding, meaning that if one party fails to abide by the order, the other can move for enforcement and contempt.
The process of seeking a legal separation is similar to that used by those seeking a divorce. In other words, one spouse will file a petition for legal separation and pay any associated filing fee, after which a Judge will be assigned to the case. The filing party must then serve the petition on their spouse, after which the responding spouse will have thirty days to file an answer. The parties will be required to submit financial disclosures as well.
Parties seeking legal separation will usually assert that there are irreconcilable differences between them and their spouse that have caused an irreparable breakdown of the marriage. California law permits parties to seek legal separation on the grounds that their spouse has become permanently incapacitated as well.
Parties will not be considered legally separated until the Court issues a judgment granting their legal separation. The date they actually separated, which is the date that either party expresses their intent to end the marriage or engages in behavior that demonstrates such an intent, often differs from the date they are deemed legally separated. It is important to determine the date of actual separation, though, as it impacts the parties’ responsibilities and rights with regard to community debts and assets.Divorce Versus Legal Separation
The most notable difference between divorce and legal separation is that divorce legally terminates a marriage, while a legal separation merely defines an individual married person’s rights while they live separately and apart from their spouse. Among other things, this means that divorced parties are free to remarry while legally separated couples are not. Additionally, while California law dictates that a divorce decree cannot be issued until a minimum of six months have passed since the petition for dissolution was filed, there is no cooling off or waiting period imposed in legal separation actions.
There are many reasons a married couple may choose to file for legal separation rather than divorce. Some people are opposed to divorce for religious or cultural reasons, while others may want to leave the door open for the possibility of reconciliation. In some cases, people may not be eligible to obtain a divorce under California law because they do not meet the residency requirement but want to legally define their rights in the interim. A person who wants to file for divorce in California must show that either they or their spouse lived in the state for at least six months and in the County where the petition for dissolution is filed for at least three months, while there is no residency requirement for seeking a legal separation under California law. People who are legally separated can choose to file joint tax returns as well, while divorced parties no longer have that option. In many instances, legally separated individuals may also be able to remain on their spouse’s health insurance or retain other marital benefits.Talk to a Trusted San Diego Family Law Attorney
Married couples who no longer want to be together but are not ready to legally end their marriage may want to consider legal separation as an alternative to divorce or simply living apart. Legal separation has significant implications, and it is important for anyone considering filing for separation to talk to an attorney before moving forward. The trusted San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC possess the skills and resources needed to help people protect their interests in family law disputes, and if you hire us, we will diligently pursue the best result available under the facts of your case. We regularly represent parties in family law cases in San Diego and other cities in San Diego County. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a meeting.